New World Bank package for Myanmar to focus on pandemic recovery
The World Bank Group says it will help Myanmar recover from the COVID-19 pandemic over the next few years, assisting economic growth with a “strong focus on social inclusion”, including conflict-affected areas.
The emphasis on coping with the pandemic and developing resilience towards natural disasters is outlined in the group’s Country Partnership Framework for Myanmar, which was approved this week by the lender’s board.
In a 144-page document outlining the framework, it warns that the economic and social impact of COVID-19 threatens to undo Myanmar’s progress since 2011, when the military junta launched the country’s political transition.
“Given limited fiscal and external buffers and capacity constraints, Myanmar will need to respond rapidly and rely upon support from development partners, including the World Bank Group, to help contain the spread of the virus and minimise its impact on the transition process,” the document said.
The Washington-based development bank fast-tracked a US$50 million loan for Myanmar’s health capacity last month in response to the coronavirus. It is also engaging with the government on new operational investments to support urgent relief, recovery and resilience efforts, including safety nets for households and businesses and addressing financial sector vulnerabilities.
The international development assistance (IDA) programmes are outlined in the table. The pipeline may need to be revised to support urgent needs emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. Table: World Bank Group Partnership Framework for Myanmar
A $8 million grant of the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility has been allocated to Myanmar to support surge response in the health sector, with special attention on the most vulnerable groups and communities in conflict areas.
Existing and upcoming projects in health, energy, agriculture, education and community development are also under review to redirect funds to Myanmar’s COVID-19 economic recovery.
Under the new Framework, the Group’s investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), will work with the private sector to create jobs and support inclusive growth. It will be active in infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and access to finance, and small businesses.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 is expected to take a severe toll on Myanmar’s poor and vulnerable people who make up about half the workforce of the country’s garment and tourism industries and up to two thirds of workers in the agricultural sector,” said Yuan Xu, IFC country manager for Myanmar and Thailand.
“With the impacts threatening people’s livelihoods, it’s all the more important to focus on responsible private sector led growth to generate jobs and inclusive economic opportunities for all the people of Myanmar,” she said. The IFC has to date committed $500 million of investments in the country.
While Myanmar has a relatively low number of recorded COVID-19 cases, its economy has suffered from the global downturn.
The World Bank expects Myanmar’s growth to decline sharply to 2pc in 2019-20 from 6.3pc in 2018-2019, with significant downside risks. While the economy is expected to regain momentum next year if the virus is brought under control and global trade resumes, serious risks could stand in the way of recovery, it warns.
“Under the new partnership framework, we will support national reforms that are critical to the transition process, help build well-governed and capable institutions, and target our support to benefit poor and underserved parts of the country, including those affected by conflict,” commented Mariam Sherman, World Bank country director for Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.